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Friday 22 November 2013

photo Annemarie van Gaal

Reform, don’t just switch off the lights, writes Annemarie van Gaal.

Was Melanie Schultz van Haegen wise to switch off the lights at night on parts of the motorways that see heavy traffic during the day?

I doubt it. It will save the treasury €35m, however, and that is not to be sneezed at. And motorists should know what they are doing. But sometimes that is not enough.

Ghost driver

My friends Fred and Caroline buried their son Dennis last Friday. Dennis was the apple of their eye, a boy to be proud of. Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ was played at the funeral. At three o’ clock in the morning Dennis, on his way home from work, was hit by a ghost driver, a ‘stranger in the night’ on the A1. He was all of 24 years old.

The driver in question was a 43-year-old mother of three, off her head with booze. She hit him head on. He didn’t stand a chance. Too dark, wrong place, wrong time. Dead.  Imagine if it was your child.


The traffic authorities said the minister’s decision wouldn’t affect road safety because the amount of traffic at night is negligible. It’s true, there isn’t much traffic. But what there is can be very dangerous.

It makes me angry that all our government is capable of is to flick a switch. ‘On’ means we continue the way we always have and ‘off’ means that’s it, no more. It’s all cuts, higher taxes and no reform.


And yet reform is what makes the world go around. Reform is a challenge and the best reforms are those that have come about by combining seemingly opposite interests, like reforming health care so foreign trade profits, or having the finance minister give up some of his hobby horses to benefit housing.

A change at one department can benefit another. The problem is that not many ministers think beyond their own departments.

Take high mast lighting on the motorways. Why not equip them with solar panels? In the long term these could yield more energy than it will cost to switch them on at night. But this particular measure will probably be transferred to a future cabinet and involve more than one department. It’s not going to help the traffic authorities now. But that doesn’t mean we should bury it.

Annemarie van Gaal is head of publishing company AM Media and a writer and columnist.


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